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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Beach House: Depression Cherry


1) Levitation; 2) Sparks; 3) Space Song; 4) Beyond Love; 5) 10:37; 6) PPP; 7) Wildflower; 8) Bluebird; 9) Days Of Candy.

You know, despite the fact that the sound of Beach House has evolved over the years — arguably reaching a «grandeur peak» with Teen Dream and mostly staying there with Bloom — frankly speaking, it's not that much of an evolution. Everywhere you look, you still find largely the same formula of misty-moisty dream-pop with chiming keyboards and floating guitars and Galadriel vocals. Therefore, to read that "this record shows a return to simplicity" in their press release is, to say the least, dismaying; and to read, just a few lines later, that "here, we continue to let our­selves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which we exist" is downright terri­fying. Not to mention that, you know, they are actually selling this record — they cannot "fully" ignore the commercial context in which they exist unless they feed on wild fruits of the jungle and drink water from pure, untainted mountain streams. An impression that their music might convey, for that matter, but then don't they, like, need to at least pay for studio time?..

Anyway, Depression Cherry — a rather awful title, if I may so suggest — is indeed a conscious return to the rather subdued, minimalist textures of the band's first two albums, where they did not use real drums or, indeed, much of anything beyond ancient-sounding keyboards, guitars, and the pssht-pssht drum machine. The question is — why? «Evolving» with this working pattern is pretty much out of the question, as the music has almost exactly the same moods, tones, tempos, associations as it «used to be». Fine, so we have already established them to be the AC/DC of dream-pop, but even AC/DC could get dull after a while, unless the Young brothers sat down and crapped out a particularly fine batch of new (if still derivative) riffs. What about these guys? Bloom could still grow on you with time. Do these songs still have any fresh signs of magic, slowly, but steadily working on your brain?

A few, I'd say. Speaking of riffage, the main riff of ʽSpace Songʼ weaves a beautiful pattern in­deed, although I couldn't say the same about the bubbly space-synth countermelody that domi­nates the bridge section — they should have rather allowed the guitar to build upon that riff. ʽBe­yond Loveʼ also has a great guitar tone — colorful, sustained, slightly distorted, perfectly atte­nuating Victoria's vocals. And the two extended tracks, ʽPPPʼ, and ʽDays Of Candyʼ, have those trademark hypnotizing Beach House codas — ʽPPPʼ turns into a fairyland waltz that manages to be completely sentimental and totally non-corny at the same time, and the wailing lead guitar line of ʽDays Of Candyʼ is a simple-graceful-magical way to finish the album, but... but...

...ultimately, it's unsatisfactory. All of this is just way, way, way too safe, cozy, comfortable, predictable, expectable. All the tricks of the trade have been learned, studied, reproduced, all the techniques explained and chewed over, including the technique of always playing the same chord at least twice or thrice before turning it over to the next one — otherwise, you know, you can create the sense of «rushed», or, even worse, entrap Beach House in the boring layman conven­tions of that stupid old fourth dimension called «time». And timelessness is the essence of the Beach House sound — woe to him who suddenly gets the impulse to ask, "oh wait, haven't I already heard this song before?" Before? What before? There is no before, or after. There's just "a place I want to take you / When the unknown will surround you" (ʽLevitationʼ). Wait! you cry, I frickin' know this place already, I've been in that place since 2006! No, no, they say, that won't do. In the world of Beach House, there is no 2006, or 2015. "There is no right time", she sings, "you will grow too quick, then you will get over it".

Coming back to our senses (briefly), I should conclude that Depression Cherry has its moments, but that its ideology of «getting back to basics» is flawed to the core, because (a) this band had never moved too far away from its basics in the first place, (b) this band had already explored its basics so thoroughly that deliberately returning there almost feels like an auto-lobotomy, and (c) who do they think they are — the Beatles on the friggin' rooftop? No thumbs up, thank you very much, though I do single out ʽSpace Songʼ here as particularly luvvable. Apparently, all of their space is dressed in red velvet, and each asteroid is inhabited by its own native siren.

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